Wednesday, March 30, 2011

100 more educator jobs to be cut in Pickens: Speak up now

Elections have consequences.

Men (and sometimes women) file to run for public office, and they tell us in their canned speeches that they're for smaller government, less taxes, more personal responsibility. Who isn't?

So on Election Day, we elect these people and they drive off to Columbia. When they get there, they set to work cutting the budget, rewriting laws to make government do more with less -- which usually means making government do less -- and sending out press releases reminding constituents that they're doing exactly what they promised.

And so they are.

The state cuts taxes, appropriates less funding to school districts, and then tells the school districts to cut the fat from their budgets. And when all the fat is gone, cut some meat. When the meat is gone, shave the bone. Still can't balance the budget? Why not eliminate some of those bones altogether?

Which brings us to Pickens County, which gave 64.3 percent of its votes for governor to Nikki Haley just five short months ago. Today, it's having to cut 100 MORE educator jobs and close a school.

From WSPA in Spartanburg:

You will have a second chance to have your voice heard on a plan to eliminate 100 positions with the Pickens County School District. The district announced a new meeting will now take place Monday, April 4 at Liberty Middle School, at 7:30 p.m.

It comes after hundreds of people packed a school board meeting Monday night, to voice concerns over the cuts. The plan, proposed by Superintendent Dr. Henry Hunt, includes the elimination of 100 positions, from guidance counselors, to assistant principals and school resource officers at the county's middle schools. The plan also includes closing JT Simpson Alternative Education Center. If closed, those students would be dispersed among other district schools.

"What about the kids' education," asks Nancy Holcombe. She has three students in Pickens schools, and is concerned over the possibility of Simpson closing. "We'll stop them from closing this school," she says. "This school does not need to be closed, it needs to stay open for these students."

School Board member Jim Shelton says he doesn't want to see any cuts, but the district has to be practical. "We're going to have to make hard decisions," he says. Shelton proposed the board go back to the drawing board, using new figures from the state that increase student spending. Per-pupil numbers would jump from $1750 per student to $1788 per student. It could save at least $600,000 and a dozen positions, according to Shelton. "Don't put something aside, don't take those dollars and stick them in the backyard in a mason jar, let's use them," he says.

Yes, what about the kids' education, indeed?

I don't know if then-candidate Haley ever delivered her canned speech in Pickens County last year, but she delivered it elsewhere many, many times, and she told us about the kids' education. Clearly, not everyone was listening.

Or, perhaps 64.3 percent of Pickens County voters want to raise the county's unemployment rate and close schools there. It's a logical conclusion.

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